Oct 20, 2020  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Public Administration, M.P.A.

Karen Miller, Ph.D., Department Chair

Julie Cencula Olberding, Ph.D., Graduate Program Director


Program Description

The Master of Public Administration (MPA) is an applied 39 credit hour degree designed to prepare students for careers in public service and public management. Classes are small, permitting faculty to personalize instruction and allowing students to develop interpersonal, technical, and quantitative skills necessary for competitive employment in the public and related sectors, including government agencies, hospitals, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. It is the only MPA program in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region. Also, it is accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), one of only seven in the state of Kentucky.

The MPA program takes approximately two-and-a-half years with students enrolling in six credit hours per semester in the fall, spring and summer semesters. Students can accelerate this pace by attending full-time (9+ hours per semester), or students can slow that pace to three years or longer by not enrolling in summer sessions. Note that all courses counting towards the MPA degree must be taken within eight years of completing the program.

The program is suited for mature, career-oriented persons committed to working in the public, nonprofit or related sectors. To accommodate students’ work schedules, many courses are taught on weekday evenings in three hour blocks, and they include a mix of lecture, seminar, small group, laboratory, and/or field work. Some courses are offered via alternative formats including online, independent research, and study abroad. For more current information about the MPA program, consult the website at nku.edu/mpa.

In addition to the MPA degree, the department offers Nonprofit Management and Emergency Management graduate certificates. Each certificate requires a total of 18 semester hours consisting of nine semester hours in core courses and nine semester hours in electives selected by the student from a variety of offerings.

Office of the MPA Program

The main office of the MPA program is 555 Founders Hall. For more information call (859) 572-5326, e-mail mpa@nku.edu or visit nku.edu/mpa.  

Program Mission Statement

The MPA program provides professional managerial, communication and human relations skills and knowledge in preparation for or advancement in a variety of public sector and related careers. The program advances public sector values of effectiveness, efficiency, honesty, accountability, fairness, diversity and public service in the curriculum, extra-curricular events and speakers, and through partnerships with area practitioners through the MPA Advisory Board, the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA), and other professional associations and individuals.

The goal of the program is to develop competent public service practitioners to serve governments, nonprofit organizations and citizens in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati metropolitan region and beyond.


The MPA program’s core objectives are to:

  1. Provide fundamental managerial and analytical skills to be applied to the public sector in the areas of policy evaluation, human resource management, organizational development and behavior, and financial management and budgeting.
  2. Develop analytical competencies including thinking critically about social issues and potential strategies to address them, collecting and analyzing relevant information, and communicating it effectively.
  3. Cultivate a strong sense of public sector values and ethical behavior within the public sector work environment.
  4. Enhance abilities to organize information and ideas and to communicate them effectively, both in written reports and in oral presentations.
  5. Provide certain specialized skills, knowledge and competency in the areas of concentration.

Learning Outcomes

  1. The ability to lead and manage in public governance.
    1. Understand the uniqueness of the public sector in terms of the policy environment, organizational structure, values and requisite competencies.
    2. Develop skill sets that demonstrate the ability to manage human, financial, information technology, and other resources.
    3. Inform and increase awareness of critical issues that the public sector faces and their implications for managing and leading public sector organizations.
  2. The ability to participate in and contribute to the policy process.
    1. Learn various theories and models of public policy making and implementation.
    2. Develop and apply analytical skills in a policy making setting.
    3. Understand the politics of public policy regarding various stakeholders’ influence in the process.
    4. Demonstrate the skill to communicate to stakeholders the impacts, outcomes and influences of policy problems and issues.
    5. Develop the ability to read statutes, ordinances, and case law and apply these skills within a given public administrator’s scope of responsibility.
  3. The ability to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make decisions.
    1. Enhance skill sets that allow for the analysis and synthesis of critical thinking and problem solving.
    2. Demonstrate through the use of memoranda, technical reports, research reports and issue papers the skills to analyze and process information and present it effectively to aid in decision making.
    3. Comprehend the fiscal implications of public sector decisions on the citizenry.
  4. The ability to articulate and apply a public service perspective.
    1. Cultivate core values of public service, effectiveness, efficiency, honesty, accountability, fairness and diversity through analysis of hypothetical or applied case studies and scenarios.
    2. Understand the rights of citizens and public sector employees.
  5. The ability to communicate and interact productively with a diverse and changing workforce and citizenry.
    1. Develop increased awareness of diversity in society and the workforce in terms of gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disabilities.
    2. Recognize diversity in society and the workforce and apply strategies and processes to manage it.
    3. Cultivate effective team building skills.

Mission specific elective competencies

Nonprofit Management


  1. Provide skills and knowledge to form and manage nonprofit organizations.
  2. Develop fundraising and financial management skills for the non-profit sector.
  3. Understand the uniqueness of working with and managing volunteers.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Understand the process of forming an incorporated nonprofit organization.
  2. Identify and comprehend important issues and challenges in non-profit management, including legal and ethical issues, accountability and performance evaluation, and the increasing involvement of the private sector.
  3. Learn fundamental principles and concepts of fundraising as well as various programs and methods to acquire funds for nonprofit organizations.
  4. Understand the basics of resource management, particularly budgeting, accounting and financial reporting.
  5. Learn and apply theories, processes and best practices related to volunteer management.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management


  1. Increase awareness of the different types of terrorism, their causes and prevention.
  2. Understand the workings of the Homeland Security division of our government and its different infrastructure.
  3. Understand the four phases of emergency management and how each phase is developed at the national, state and local levels. These four phases are mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery for man-made and natural disasters.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Develop knowledge and skills suitable for a career in homeland security or emergency management.
  2. Evaluate a community’s preparedness against various types of disasters.
  3. Develop knowledge and skills to respond and recover in a community during an actual emergency.
  4. Develop an understanding of historical perspectives on terrorism, basic definitions of cogent terms and concepts, and the symbolism of terrorism.
  5. Understand different forms of terrorist tactics and targets along with methods of appropriate prevention, detection, and response, applying such knowledge to the local environment.

Metropolitan Governance


  1. Provide students with the conceptual basis and skill assortment to become professional practitioners in state and local government.
  2. Appreciate the political and organizational cultural nuances of state and local government agencies.
  3. Provide specialized managerial and interpersonal skills to navigate often contradictory public policy issues.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Develop an awareness of the history and ethics of good government as developed by the city manager movement over the last century.
  2. Understand the key policy roles played by the local manager in this age of the dependent city, especially in areas of comprehensive planning, economic development, and the budgeting of scarce resources.
  3. Provide opportunities for interpersonal and political skill development through practical experience in the form of shadowing managers and internships.
  4. Enhance the ability to work in a collaborative project management setting

Public Leadership


  1. Provide knowledge and skills to manage and lead in the public sector, including local, state and federal government agencies.
  2. Understand the uniqueness of leading and managing in the public sector, especially the diversity in employees, communities and society.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Build knowledge of employee motivation and motivational strategies to improve executive leadership skills.
  2. Obtain a hands-on understanding of implementation, monitoring and evaluation tools in a governance structure.
  3. Describe diversity and its impact in public organizations and environments.
  4. Identify and build skills necessary for leading and managing diverse persons and viewpoints.

General Public Management


Provide students an option to choose among different specialized courses from the other concentrations based on their career needs and aspirations.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Develop skills and knowledge in one or more specialized areas in nonprofit management, homeland security, and/or planning.
  2. Develop an appreciation for having personal and professional integrity and how these values relate to decisions that ultimately affect the citizenry.


The program systematically collects information from internal and external sources to assess these learning outcomes. Internal sources include feedback from students, capstone portfolios, capstone projects, and exams and assignments in different courses. External sources include feedback from alumni, MPA Advisory Board members, and regional employers in the public and non-profit sectors.

Program Administration

While the MPA degree follows the academic rules established by the NKU Graduate Council (detailed previously in this catalog), there are also program-specific guidelines. To facilitate program-specific activities, the MPA is administered by a graduate program director. The MPA director, with the input and consultation of other MPA program faculty, makes program-specific requirement, curriculum, admission, enrollment, and graduation decisions. The MPA degree and Nonprofit Management and Emergency Management certificates are housed in the Department of Political Science, Criminal Justice and Organizational Leadership located in the College of Arts and Sciences at NKU.


Program Admission Process

Students applying for admission into the MPA program are divided into two applicant categories: in-career and pre-career. In-career applicants are those who, in an evaluation by the MPA director have demonstrated five years of experience in the public or related sector. Some of that experience must be managerial in nature. Pre-career students are all other applicants. All students applying to the MPA program must provide the following six items:

  1. A completed application for admission.
  2. Official transcripts showing all college/university coursework completed at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
  3. At least two supportive letters from persons qualified to evaluate potential for successful performance in the MPA program.
  4. A narrative essay of 300 to 400 words stating academic and career goals, how the MPA program will enable attainment of those goals, and any additional information detailing relevant work experience.


In-career students applying for admission to the MPA program must submit the following items:

  1. A current resume documenting five years of work experience in the public or related sector.
  2. A portfolio of two to three work products (singular or team efforts) that demonstrate professional activities.


Pre-career students applying for admission to the MPA program must submit the following items:

  1. A writing sample of 10 to 12 pages (either a work product or an academic paper) or official scores on the GRE writing test.
  2. Official scores of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or Miller Analogies Test; the LSAT is not a suitable substitute.  Applicants with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher are exempt from the GRE requirement.

The MPA program conforms to the general rules of all graduate programs at NKU. Specifically, all successful admission candidates to the MPA program must:

  1. Possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  2. Hold a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or higher (on a scale of 4.0) for all college work.
  3. Demonstrate good potential for success in graduate professional study and public service.

Applicants who have strong potential but lack one admission item may be admitted provisionally to the MPA program. These students have one semester to submit the missing item in order to be fully admitted to remain in the program. In addition, applicants who have strong potential but fall short in one area (e.g., an undergraduate GPA less than 2.75) may be admitted provisionally. These students must earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher during their first six credit hours in order to be fully admitted and remain in the program.

Transfer Credit

Successful applicants to the MPA program may transfer up to 15 semester hours of appropriate, acceptable graduate coursework from other programs and/or institutions in which they must have earned a minimum grade of B. These courses must be deemed appropriate to the program of study at the time of admission into the program by the MPA graduate program director.

Dual MPA Degree and Graduate Certificate (Nonprofit Management or Emergency Management)

Students completing the MPA program may also receive the Nonprofit Management or Emergency Management graduate certificate. To do so, students must submit separate applications for the MPA degree and for the graduate certificate via apply.nku.edu.  Further, they must complete an additional three hours of MPA electives that will not count toward the MPA degree, raising the total credit hours to 42 hours. Students seeking the dual MPA degree and Nonprofit Management certificate must take the three Nonprofit Management core classes (PAD 620 , PAD 621 , PAD 622 ) and use them as electives in the MPA program. Similarly, students seeking the dual MPA degree and Emergency Management certificate must take the three Emergency Management core classes (PAD 681 , PAD 682 , PAD 683 ) and use them as electives in the MPA program.

Academic Standing

A GPA of at least 3.0 must be maintained for all 500 and 600 level coursework. A student with a GPA below 3.0 will not be permitted to advance beyond 18 semester hours in the program until the GPA is raised to at least 3.0 by repeating courses. A course may be repeated only once, and only two courses may be repeated. Only courses with a grade of C or below can be repeated; the repeat grade is used in the GPA determination. Students falling below 3.0 will be placed on probation; those failing to remove the probation by nine additional semester hours of coursework will be dropped from the program.

♦ Indicates prerequisite.


Applicants for the MPA program are not required to have completed an undergraduate major in public administration; however, certain undergraduate courses and corresponding skills are needed for success in the program. Students are expected to have completed undergraduate courses in statistical analysis, probability, research methods, introduction to microcomputers, and public sector management. Minimum expectations of the knowledge and skills derived from the above courses include writing skills, computer skills, basic knowledge of public sector management, research concepts/techniques, statistical concepts, and statistical analysis of data. Equivalent work experience may be substituted for undergraduate coursework at the discretion of the MPA graduate program director. Work equivalences for the above coursework or areas of knowledge and skills include experience in writing research or evaluation reports, working with a PC office suite, employment in the public sector, experience with survey research, experience with research design or grant writing, and experience with univariate/bivariate statistics.

The MPA graduate program director will assess if applicants possess the prerequisite knowledge and skills through examination of application materials and, if deemed necessary, through interviews and/or examinations. If you meet the general program requirements but are deemed deficient in one or more knowledge/skill areas, you will be placed in appropriate undergraduate courses.

Program Curriculum


To earn the Master of Public Administration degree, students are required to complete a core curriculum of 27 semester hours of classes and 12 semester hours of elective work for a total of 39 semester hours.

Intermediate Core Courses (required) (9 credit hours)

The following three courses are required if they have not already been successfully completed as electives at the undergraduate level. These courses may be waived by the MPA Admission Committee, after review of transcripts and consultation with the student.

Area of Concentration Courses (at least 12 credit hours)

Each MPA student selects his or her area of concentration and then completes at least 12 credit hours from accepted courses in that area.

Students will choose one of the following concentrations:

Nonprofit Management:

Homeland Security and Emergency Management:

Metropolitan Governance:

Public Leadership:

General Public Management:

Core Courses (3 credit hours)

Total Hours: 12

Other MPA Electives:

Students can take one or more of these elective courses, for their concentration, after getting prior approval from the MPA graduate program director.

Total Hours: 39